Four trains and nine hours later, we finally made it from the South of France to Barcelona! Unfortunately, our first night in Spain wasn’t quite what we expected.
Accommodations in Spain are more expensive than France, so we opted for hostels instead of our usual Airbnbs. I’ve stayed in numerous hostels before and previously vowed to never do it again, but alas that didn’t last. It was Cardin’s first hostel experience though, and he was excited to try it out.
We stayed in a ten person dorm room, and within the first hour we heard gunshots outside. That’s right, gunshots.
Despite the fact that there were eight other people in our room, no one seemed to react. They didn’t even stir when crowds of people started yelling and running outside our window. We kept looking around hoping someone else would acknowledge the commotion, but everyone had the bed-curtains closed, and no one moved.
We finally walked out to the common room and met a few girls who were also concerned. One of them had been in Barcelona for a few days already, so she was familiar with Catalonia’s political unrest. Catalonia wants to separate from the rest of Spain, and one of the movement leaders was arrested in Germany the night we arrived. So, everyone was rioting in protest of his arrest. Apparently the riots have been recurring since October, but this night was particularly bad. And it turns out the gunshots were only empty shells the police were shooting to disperse the crowds.
The city is also covered with yellow ribbons to support the political movement. They were everywhere!
The next morning we woke up to a much calmer city. But when I say wake up, I mean we finally accepted we’re not falling back asleep… all thanks to our bedroom door.
Our bunk was next to the creakiest door I’ve ever heard! One of the perks of being half deaf is I can usually turn over and not hear anything while sleeping. Except for loud noises, which end up sounding very distorted.
Well, the noise of our door opening in my bad ear sounded like a pterodactyl attacking our room. Let me just say that’s a terrifying noise to hear while you’re trying to sleep!
Needless to say we wore ear plugs the next two nights and were able to sleep much better!
We started our day at Casa Batlló, which is one of the famous houses designed by Antoni Gaudí. The house was beautiful but very expensive to tour. Thankfully, the price included a “smart” audioguide, which showed short videos demonstrating Gaudí’s artistic inspiration. You can see an example of this in one of the pictures below where the windows look like turtle shells.
Despite the high price, we’re glad we went on the tour. It helped us understand Gaudí’s unique artistic style and the impact he had on Barcelona.
Gaudí is known for his use of natural light throughout his designs. In this particular house, he built two light wells. They have white tiles at the bottom and dark blue tiles at the top. His technique allows for brighter natural light in the lower levels of the house, since they are furthest from the window, and less intense light in the top floors.
Gaudí is most famous for his incredible tile work. He used recycled materials to create beautiful patterns of broken tiles throughout all of his creations.
After walking around La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter, we visited the Mercat de la Boqueria for lunch. It’s a massive market with never-ending food stalls. We bought a few snacks, but our favorite treats were the fresh fruit juices! There were at least ten different stalls selling juice, so it was a popular item. And for a good reason! Unfortunately, most of the food was either fried or raw fish (and I don’t mean sushi), so we mostly filled up on fruit.
See what I mean by raw fish? Can someone please explain why anyone would eat this terrifying catch….I couldn’t eat anything after seeing that thing, let alone fish.
After the market, we headed to the Arc de Triomf and a nearby park.
As we were leaving, we noticed a street performer setting up. We almost kept walking, but decided to stay. And I’m so glad we did! This guy was by far the most impressive street performer I’ve seen. He was mesmerizing!
That night we grabbed dinner with one of the girls we met during our “riot scare”—I guess that’s one way to meet people. She’s super sweet and ironically also from Florida! We had paella for dinner, but sadly weren’t very impressed. They charged 17 euros a person for paella at almost every restaurant we passed in Barcelona. They have signs outside advertising a huge pan of delicious looking rice and seafood, so we figured it would be worth it. Unfortunately, the portion was pretty small, and the taste was average.
To make up for our mediocre dinner, we headed to Häagen-Dazs. This may not have been the most authentic Spanish dessert, but it was definitely a unique ice cream experience! We walked in and headed to the counter thinking you’re supposed to order there. The server quickly corrected us and seated us at a nearby table with menus. I’ve never been inside a Häagen-Dazs before, so I’m not sure if it’s normal for them to have a sit-down ice cream establishment, but we loved it!
Early the next morning we headed to Park Güell. It was supposed to be a neighborhood designed by Gaudí, but he never finished the project. Now it’s a beautiful park full of his unique creations! It’s also the place featured in the cover photo of this post.
Since all of Barcelona’s attractions are so expensive and crowded, it’s cheaper to purchase tickets online, and you’re guaranteed entrance. We didn’t realize this until the night before though, so we ended up with 8:30 am tickets.
We also ran into another one of our “hostel-riot” friends in the park (also stuck with the early morning slot). She’s American, but lives in Venice and works at the Guggenheim! We spent the next few hours exploring the city together before she headed home.
Since it was so early, the sun was a bit of a struggle. Below are the outtakes of what was supposed to be a cute picture!
Our next stop was La Pedrera, another one of Gaudí’s houses. After spending so much money on the other house, we decided to skip the inside and admire it from afar.
We ended our time in Barcelona with the most amazing church on earth: the Sagrada Família. Construction began in 1882, and the projected completion is 2026. That’s right, it’s taking almost 150 years to build this place!
The basilica is known as Gaudí’s greatest legacy and towers over the entire city. Honestly, I could have done a post just on the Sagrada Família. Sadly, these pictures don’t do it justice, but at least you can catch a glimpse of this incredible structure!
We also splurged for the audio guide, which I highly recommend if you ever make the trip there.
Our favorite parts of the church were the stained glass windows. They’re another example of Gaudí’s innovative use of natural light and made the entire place glow! You have to catch it at the right time though—if you’re there at noon, you won’t see anything since the sun is directly overhead. Thankfully, our tickets were for 3:30pm, so the light was perfect!
Also, please notice the insane spiral staircase below. Talk about a leg workout! Although I think it would have made us so dizzy, we wouldn’t have survived the whole way up.
Barcelona was beautiful, and Gaudí’s work throughout the city is incredible! If it’s not on your travel list already, add it—even if just to visit the Sagrada Familia.
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